Coco Gauff hailed Serena Williams as the “GOAT of GOATs” and the reason she plays tennis following the 40-year-old’s decision to “evolve away” from tennis.
Williams looks set to retire from the sport after the US Open, stating in an interview with Vogue that she “never liked the word retirement” but is planning to switch her focus to ventures away from tennis.
The 23-time Grand Slam winner was an inspiration for Guaff, who was born in March 2004 – when Williams already had six major titles to her name.
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And speaking after her opening-round National Bank Open win over fellow American Madison Brengle in Toronto, Gauff saluted Williams for the legacy she has left.
“She’s just been playing forever, my whole life,” Gauff said. “The legacy that she’s left throughout her tennis career is something that I don’t think any other player can probably touch.
“I think that the legacy that she’ll continue to leave throughout her life is something that can inspire many more generations.”
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Gauff, 18, has been tipped to become a future Grand Slam winner, and reached the French Open final earlier this year where she lost to Iga Swiatek.
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She has not taken to the “next Serena” tag, but Gauff admits that Williams’ rise to dominance as a Black woman in a “predominantly white sport” is something to aspire to.
“I’ve learned a lot from them [Serena and sister Venus]. People always tell me that you’re going to be next whatever blah blah blah and Serena has been considered the GOAT for at least the second half of her career and she never succumbed to that pressure,” Gauff said.
“I think she overcame it and I think that’s something I take from her and try to learn from it. Not that I’m at her level and experiencing the same pressure she is, but in the moment I try to emulate that.
“For me, I grew up watching her. That’s the reason why I play tennis and tennis being a predominantly white sport it definitely helped a lot because I saw somebody who looked like me dominating the game and it made me believe I could dominate too.”
And so, Guaff is left in no doubt that Williams will depart the sport as the greatest the game has ever seen.
“She’s the GOAT. And undisputed too. In my opinion. But I don’t think that’s an opinion, it’s a fact. Serena for me is the GOAT. The GOAT of all GOATs. There will never be another Serena,” Gauff said.
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“What makes her the GOAT is her personality and all that she’s done off the court to fight for equality, to fight for young players like me and continue to lead in the way that she does and I think that’s what we really should be focused on.
“That’s just Serena. I don’t think there will be anyone who can do what she did, with all the adversity that she had to face, I don’t think there will be another player that will do that.”
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